Orange Shirt Day

Charity FlemingFirst Nations related, Mental Health

Growing up in Northern Ontario I didn’t know until after I had left the North, acquired post secondary education and become much more educated on the topic that I had been experiencing internalized racism most of my life. I didn’t know my culture, I didn’t know my mother language, I felt shame about my racial identity.

I also came to the realization of the fact that there was a previous aim of the Canadian government in assimilating First Nations and Inuit people into non aboriginal culture and committing cultural genocide, and that most of the shameful things I heard about First Nations was largely related to this.

As I became educated on the topic of Aboriginal affairs in Canada I was appalled at some of the things I learned. Like that for a century nearly 50% of children forced to abide by Canada’s Residential School Act died from hopelessness, failed runaway attempts,  brutal punishments, suicide or illness in the residential schools (for more info: That sexual abuse was widespread in the schools. That brutal physical punishments accompanied any expression or display of culture children of these schools engaged in.

Now, with the continued epidemics of suicide, mental health & health issues, and prevalence of other social problems I can fully see the context within which these problems developed. I can fully understand why the legacy of shame followed my footsteps, why the cries of Our People’s children rise from the ground, why horrendous atrocities are still occurring in many of our First Nations.  And why giving these experiences a voice is so important to helping Our People break free from the legacy of pain that has been haunting us.

One way to hear this voice and join in, no matter what your nationality or culture is to participate in the now annual Orange Shirt Day. This past Friday Sept 30th, children and adults all over the nation wore Orange Shirts in memory of Residential School Survivors. Jenny Dupuis, the granddaughter of the original Orange Shirt Wearer (Phyliss Webstad) shared: “I hope this day will spark deep and meaningful conversations  with students about topics like oppression, loss of identity and assimilation.” (for more:

In my profession as a psychotherapist, helping to reduce the impact of the resulting Historical & Intergenerational Trauma of the residential school system has been of paramount importance to me, and my colleagues at Qualia Counselling Services. Through the help of government programs like Non Insured Health Benefits for First Nations we offer cognitive behavioural therapy for survivors of residential schools, as well as their family members and those still living with the ongoing effects of these community wide traumas.  We are dedicated to doing our part in helping these individuals gain a voice and understanding of the impacts of these experiences and also a hope and brightness for the future.  If you or a loved one is a First Nations member and would like to connect with our services, contact us today. You don’t need to live in silence or suffering any longer.  We will solemnly remember, and pledge always to do our part in the continued aftermath of this trauma.



Charity FlemingOrange Shirt Day

Try the Snowflake Shake!

Charity FlemingCognitive Behavioural Therapy

The holidays, with all it’s wonder and joy, can also bring situations that can evoke feelings of sadness, anxiety and even resentment or anger.

One website that I love and that offers some fantastic resources for emotion regulation for kids is

This website focuses on providing tools to help kids and adults learn to calm their central nervous system, the part of the body that kicks into ‘fight or flight’ to respond to all sorts of stress or ‘threat’ from our environment.  The tools offered through this website, along with cognitive and behavioural interventions, can reduce and eliminate many symptoms related to emotion dysregulation and the physical sensations accompanying it.

Today the author of this website () posted a great season specific mindfulness meditation for kids – the Snowflake Shake. If you are like many that wish there were just a few snowflakes in the sky in our usually snow covered city, or if you love to think of the beauty of the snow from the warmth of inside your house, try it out for some winter fun and festive stress relief!



Charity FlemingTry the Snowflake Shake!

A Focus on the Merry

Charity FlemingCognitive Behavioural Therapy

Today I am directing a little more energy towards my Christmas preparations – I am finalizing the list for what’s to be included in my famous Christmas Day brunch, I am preparing my 12 days of Christmas traditions, and preparing to give the house a super deep cleaning.

As I was reflecting this morning on the reason and themes of this holiday season, I came across a holiday image/quote that originates from the Bible. It says, “A Merry Heart Does Good Like Medicine” – Proverbs 17:12. I thought it was an interesting quote that peaked my interest as a Cognitive Behavioural Therapist and Clinical Social Worker, for a number of reasons.


As I was reflecting on this quote I marveled at how scientifically accurate it is, and at the breadth of wisdom which comes from passages, ancient proverbs and stories passed on throughout the ages. This proverb was first written down by King Solomon hundreds of years BCE, yet today much of the recent literature about merriness/happiness states exactly the same thing – being merry is like its own medicine! Being merry/happy results in lower risk of heart disease and it protects against hypertension, diabetes and respiratory tract infections. People who are merry live a lot longer too.

Laura Kubzansky (who holds a PhD and is a professor at Harvard University) currently conducts research on the effects of happiness and how to increase one’s personal sense of well being in life. She reports that happiness is often sustained by qualities of: enthusiasm, optimism, hope, engagement in life and ability to face life’s stressors with emotional balance.

Other research, like that done by expert Sonja Lyubomirsky (Berkeley Professor and Stanford PhD Graduate) reports that we can become happier and increase our enthusiasm, optimism and hope by being grateful. Gratitude not only increases happiness and acts like a medicine that way, but it also on its own decreases all sorts of additional health problems  (decreases depression/anxiety, improves immune system functioning, improves our sleep, decreases aches and pains, & lowers blood pressure).

In Cognitive Behavioural Therapy much of what we do (for example, developing balanced  thoughts & increasing positive habits) is focused on helping individuals, couples and families increase their happiness and life satisfaction. This can be for those suffering from symptoms of mental health concerns, or others who are generally content but perhaps seeking more out of life – more purpose, more vision, more everyday love for life. Besides doing this through CBT, at Qualia we have experts like Kristina Schwalm (MSW, RSW) that  teach behavioural and other interventions like Mindfulness Meditation, which help individuals preserve the present moment, regulate emotion & live more abundant lives. We also host groups, like Daring Way – which helps participants embrace a new lifestyle of “wholehearted living”, based on the work of Brene Brown and led by Qualia’s own fabulous and super intelligent Mellisa Pyne (MSW,RSW). In sum, we have devoted our life work to helping you to be “Merry & Bright”, and we take our work extremely seriously.

So, as you continue through this season and into the New Year, I wish you my most heartfelt “Merry Christmas/Happy Holidays”. May you be “Merry & Bright” now and going forward, and soak in all the rich benefits that Merriness can bring. If you need help with increasing your Merriness, know we at Qualia Counselling can do more than just give you the greeting, we can lead you along the path of generating more happiness in your life each day, through proven and reliable evidence based interventions.

merry and bright

Charity FlemingA Focus on the Merry

Wholehearted Living Group!!

Melissa PyneCognitive Behavioural Therapy

The NEW Wholehearted Living group offered at Qualia is  based on Brené Brown’s 10 Guideposts to Wholehearted Living. Over our 10 weeks together we will courageously “dig deeply” into the thoughts, emotions, and behaviours that are holding us back and identify the new choices and practices that will help us move toward a more authentic and joyful life.  We will use our creativity to explore each of the guideposts.  For more information, please see the website

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Melissa PyneWholehearted Living Group!!

Inside “Inside Out”

Kristina SchwalmCognitive Behavioural Therapy

The topic of our ‘inner dialogue’ has been getting a lot of media attention lately, most notably in the form of a box-office hit for kids (Disney/Pixar’s “Inside Out”).  From a therapist’s perspective, getting people to think about their present-time emotions is a great thing. The more we tune in to our emotions, the more we have the opportunity to acknowledge and respond to our emotional needs.

This film makes this point in surround sound.  From our view inside the brain of 11-year-old Riley, we meet five of Riley’s ‘core emotions’: joy, sadness, fear, anger and disgust. We witness a perilous adventure wherein ‘joy’ is ultimately endangered by her attempt to silence and suppress ‘sadness’. The film effectively depicts the link between suppression of sadness and the onset of a festering, long-term depressive mood. As Shakespeare so pithily put it, “Small showers last long, sudden storms are short”.

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Kristina SchwalmInside “Inside Out”

The Power of Perspective

Charity FlemingCognitive Behavioural Therapy

As a Cognitive Therapist, a large task I endeavour to achieve is to help others change, restructure and reframe the way they think about life experiences and the meaning ascribed to the information processed on a daily basis. Often when I meet new people in social situations and they ask me what I do for a living I anticipate they will have no idea what cognitive therapy really is. Sometimes I have very well intentioned individuals ask about or tell an anecdote about thinking positive thoughts and the change it had on their life. This is fantastic, but cognitive therapy does not just substitute unfounded potentially   false ‘positive’ ideologies and thoughts for previously used negative ones. We use the scientific method to identify false negative thoughts, unhelpful internal dialogues and cognitive scripts of the mind. We then uproot these to replace them with accurate, true thoughts and cognitive scripts based on evidence from our experiences and world. Essentially, we help ourselves and others escape the prisons of our minds to claim liberty and peace through truth. And when we do our job properly, this is what happens – individuals escape the pain and suffering of mental unhealth and embrace all new lives, because of the power of their perspective and choice to change.

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Charity FlemingThe Power of Perspective

Errbody Goin’ Through Somethin’

Raechel PefanisSelf Improvement


I love me a good, sappy, come-from-behind story. I love the little guy nobody knew about, who brought some brilliant idea to market while everyone was looking elsewhere. I love the story of the parapalegic who gets up for the first time and gets on the parallel bars to start recovery…and ends up winning the marathon. I love the story of the businesswoman that came to Canada with $25 in her pocket and now employs hundreds of people, who she cares for like family.

Resilience is not something we get excited about nearly enough.

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Raechel PefanisErrbody Goin’ Through Somethin’

Ever Boil a Frog?

Melissa PyneCognitive Behavioural Therapy

Mel Blog

Ever boil a frog? …probably not. But here’s the thing about boiling a frog, if you tried to drop a frog into a pot of boiling water it would frantically jump out. Now if you put a frog in a pot with cold water and gradually turn the temperature up, the frog never tries to get out. It tries to adapt. It tries to adapt until it is literally boiling to death.

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Melissa PyneEver Boil a Frog?

Imperfect. And enough. Version 2.0…cause we’re not perfect either :)

Melissa PyneSelf Improvement

You are enough. Right now. At this exact moment, you are enough.

How many of us put conditions on our worth? How many times have you caught yourself thinking “I’ll be good enough when I… land my dream job, meet the man of my dreams, get that promotion, lose 10 pounds, pay off all my debts, stop having panic attacks, have children who behave…”?

The trouble with putting conditions on our worth is we will never feel “enough.”

I want to be my best self. And I bet you do too. My best self isn’t perfect (far from it!) but it involves a daily practice of trying to be authentic. For me, this practice means mustering up the courage to be imperfect and vulnerable while at the same time exercising self compassion.

I had one of those moments today where I needed some self compassion. I clicked on an email with a link to a WhatsApp message. Well, it turned out to be spam and within seconds my account sent off the same spam message to everyone in my contact list. Everyone! Work contacts, ex-boyfriends, that contractor I had do some work for me a few years ago…Everyone! My inner gremlins started screaming “Seriously! You didn’t know that was spam? What kind of idiot are you?” And that’s how quickly it can happen: I’m not enough. I’m not smart enough to have know better and now everyone can see how technologically un-savvy I am. So I quickly sent out an I’m-sorry-I’m such-an-idoit-please-don’t-open-that-spam email to everyone on my contact list. Then the emails started rolling in and most of them were to the tune of “its good to hear from you in any form it comes in.” (Except my brother. He demanded I buy him a new computer for infecting his with spam…but I think he was joking.)

So I took a deep breath and I circled back to those gremlins in my head and replied “this happens to everyone.”

I’ve been running groups for a number of years now. One of the reasons I absolutely love group work is because its a safe space where people demonstrate all kinds of compassion and encouragement for one another. But here’s the catch. There is a major difference between compassion and self-compassion. Imagine how different life would be if you talked to yourself the way you talked to the people you love? Imagine engaging with your life from a place of worthiness. The feeling that regardless of your story, or what has happened in your day, you are enough.

I invite you to join me in our courageous new group, Wholehearted Living, where we will strive to let go of the thoughts, feelings and behaviours that get in the way of knowing we are enough.

Melissa PyneImperfect. And enough. Version 2.0…cause we’re not perfect either :)